There seems to be an assumption that employees don’t want to do a good job and that it is the function of HR to police a system that makes sure they buckle down but is this true? Peter A Hunter author of Breaking the Mould
looks at the issues.
In truth most employees do want to do a good job.
When people don’t do a good job it is normally because they are being denied the support, the materials or the feedback that they need.
When we stop telling people what to do and start to use the tools they need to become powerful their performance becomes exceptional.
These tools are support, encouragement, and respect.
Using these tools will change the way that employees feel about what they do and when they start to feel good, when they start to be able to feel pride in what they do, then their performance becomes exceptional.
The HR function is in exactly the right place to change the way that employees feel about what they do by changing the way that they behave towards the staff, by involving them, by providing the tools that they need to be as good as they can be.
Doing this we avoid the resistance that is normally created when individuals are told what to do and instead we find a willing and enthusiastic workforce who want to become involved.
Involvement of the workforce is normally acknowledged as a vital ingredient in the success or failure of most driven changes or initiatives, whether it is keeping the work site tidy, discovering efficiencies in a production process or implementing a safety programme.
In each case we only truly succeed in changing performance if we generate a change in behaviour that sustains the change in performance in the long term.
To do this the work force must become involved, and in order to become involved there has to be something in it for them.
Nobody will change their behaviour unless they experience a “win” when they make a change.
There are many incentive and bonus schemes which work well in the short term.
The reward however soon becomes an expectation and loses its power to act as an incentive.
We humans as a species are fiendishly adept at defeating these engineered solutions with strategies which will allow us to continue to gather the reward without changing our behaviour.
The reward which cannot be bought costs nothing.
Imagine your department is due for a business review and you are well ahead of the curve with your preparation.
On Friday afternoon it is announced that the directors of the parent company will be in the country and the review will now take place on Tuesday instead of the following Friday, to allow them to be present.
Your boss asks you to bring your schedule forward. This requires you to work all weekend to be ready.
Your efforts allow you to make the presentation on time and you are relieved that the directors do not appear displeased.
This is a familiar story of response to a pressure that is both difficult to resist and increasingly expected.
Now one of the directors walks across as you are packing away and says: “I’m sorry I couldn’t rearrange my schedule to fit in with your original programme, thanks for your presentation, that was impressive.”
Now, how do you feel?
The effort to give that feedback cost the director a few seconds of his time but the result is that now you can leap tall buildings.
Feedback which is appropriate, positive and timely costs nothing.
Involvement is not an instant concept which can be bought.
It has to be built up slowly and is the result of repeated experience.
In time, confidence in their value within the team will increase and individuals will begin spontaneously to produce ideas and suggestions because they know their opinion will be listened to and respected.
This level of involvement is not a trick. It is the result of a long-term change in the behaviour of the whole team.
That change of behaviour needs to start somewhere and everyone of us can take the first step.